Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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Educators around the country are developing materials to use with Nature's Notebook.

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Brian Powell

Nature's Notebook Activities

Explore Nature's Notebook materials created by the National Coordinating Office Staff and partners.

Title Description
Local Phenology Program Sustainability Plan

The purpose of this Nature’s Notebook Sustainability Plan is to provide documentation of your Local Phenology Program that can be shared with coworkers or volunteers. This can be a valuable document in the event that you and other founding Leaders are no longer able to work for your organization. Designed outcomes, a list of partnering groups, potential funders, and information about the Group in Nature’s Notebook can help ensure the program’s sustainability in the event of staff or volunteer turnover.

Examples of Submitted Local Phenology Leader Annual Reports

Local Phenology Leaders using Nature's Notebook for engaging students, volunteers, and community partners are able to use resources available from the USA-NPN to create annual reports for their stakeholders.

The Visualization Tool and Phenology Program Dashboards are useful resources available for summarizing phenology observational records, numbers of observers, numbers of observations made, and more.

Read an example report from a Local Phenology Program at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge and an example from the Gulf Coast Phenology Trail (an aggregation of multiple Local Phenology Programs) for ideas on what you might include in your annual report.

Don't forget the National Coordinating Office conducts an annual Active Group evaluation as well - share your annual reports and impact statement with us!

Local Phenology Program Planning & Evaluation Resources

Needs Assessment Worksheet

Before you embark on designing any type of long-term phenology monitoring program consider doing a needs assessment to decide what "need" something like a Nature's Notebook might fill. The first link above is a simple needs assessment form which can be used to determine your first steps in program development. You can also share your information with the National Coordinating Office staff by completing the web form linked from that page.


Nature's Notebook Program Planning Activity

Before you dive into writing up a Program Plan for your long-term Nature's Notebook phenology monitoring program, consider using this worksheet to help you think about short, medium, and long-term measurable outcomes. You also may wish to document some of the information you've gathered from your Needs Assessment Form if you've got stakeholders and resources now available to you. If you've decided upon your needs, decided how Nature's Notebook can help you meet those needs and the resources you have available, then you can work backward to determine what specifically you need to do to get you there.

We also offer a planning worksheet in Spanish if you are working with Spanish speaking audiences.

Program Mapping Worksheet

This worksheet will help you think more specifically about the objectives and action steps you need to do to achieve your stated short, medium, or long-term outcomes for your program. Use this to help you better articulate the Short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes and objectives after working through the Program Planning Activity Worksheet.

Logic Model Worksheet

If you'd like to use a more traditional planning template, check our our Logic Model Worksheet for documenting measurable outcomes.

For more information on Program Planning and Evaluation visit the following helpful websites:


Action Planning Template

How are you going to get from point A to point B? This template helps you to document the steps you are taking (your objectives and activities) and provides a place to record what resources you need for each, who is responsible for completing activities and tasks, and documentation for when it is complete.


Sustainability Plan

We also offer a Sustainability Plan where you may wish to document aspects of your LPP in the event that you leave your position and someone else must take over the Program.

Needs Assessment Worksheet: USA-NPN Education Resource Number: 2017-002-C

Program Planning Guide: USA-NPN Education Resource Number: 2014-007-C (2014-007-CSP - Spanish)

Logic Model Worksheet: USA-NPN Education Resource Number: 2017-001-C

Phenology, Ecosystem Analysis, and Ecological Mismatches

This lesson helps students become familiar with plant and animal species present in an oak tree ecosystem. They are also asked to explore the USA-NPN's Visualization Tool and, from the data, draw conclusions about how climate and climate change affect plant phenology.

This lesson was submitted by Peter Malecki for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Exploring Phenology Using Seed Balls By Lexie Barrell

The following activity is an introductory lesson in the basics of observation skills for young children. Observation is a crucial component to scientific inquiry as well as many basic life skills. This activity encourages young children to take notice of their surrounding environments and reflect on their observations.   

This activity was submitted by Lexie Barrell from the Science Museum of Virginia for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Using your senses to make observations by Amie Cox

This activity will introduce phenology to students and will serve as a ‘warm up’ to conducting more complex observations to be submitted to Natures Notebook. Students will observe one specimen on their own and practice making simple observations. Followed by a group discussion, students will have the opportunity to share out their process and submit one Nature’s Notebook observation into the database for Red Butte Garden.

This activity was submitted by Amie Cox from the Red Butte Garden for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Phenology for Master Naturalists

This phenology class was presented in a 3-hour training course for Master Naturalists.

The learning outcomes for the course are as follows:

  • Define phenology and explain how it is an indicator of climate change.
  • Summarize basic principles of ecology and how they relate to phenology
  • Describe the difference between weather and climate and describe the climates change through time
  • Describe phenology from a historical perspective, culturally and ecologically.
  • Define how data collect for Nature’s Notebook is utilized for research
  • Define citizen science and describe how it is utilized for research
  • Revisit/summarize the importance and value of nature journals

You may wish to assign Master Naturalists reading before hand, including famous naturalists' writing on the timing of phenological events through time. For this course the following reading assignments were given:

Phenology required reading:

Natural History of the Sonoran Desert:

  • Chapter 5, pages 27-35. “Sonoran Desert Natural Events Calendar.”

Phenology Suggested Reading:

  • Krutch, J.W. (1985). The Desert Year. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

The class included examples of phenological mismatch for the Sonoran Desert. This information can be swapped out for other geographic regions. It also included several hands-on activities in the field, exploring the Nature's Notebook protocols. Worksheets for the activities are included above. Homework assignments are also included.

Offered in addition to this lecture was a 3-hour field lab session designed to take a further look into the protocols and learn how to collect observations on species of interest at a nearby partner group site.

You can browse other Master Naturalist presentations in our workshop archive or here and here.

USA-NPN Curriculum Resource Number: 2018-001-W

What can a lilac tell us about national climate change? Using the USA-NPN's Spring Indices to measure the impact of weather on biota

This lesson can be used as a supplement in a course designed to demonstrate climate change impacts on biotic species or a course designed to study the natural history of species in a given range.

Prior to presenting this lesson the instructor should familiarize themselves with the USA-NPN’s Visualization Tool (usanpn.org/data/visualizations) and First Leaf and First Bloom maps (Spring Index Maps; usanpn.org/data/maps). Both tools have accompanying technical documentation on the website, including tutorial videos and info sheets.

The instructor should also identify a study range and at least two species of interest for student to explore, found on the Nature’s Notebook Plant and Animal list (usanpn.org/nn/species_search). In this example the Tucson Basin was chosen for exploration of the Spring Anomaly and the Northern red oak and Blue Jay were chosen to demonstrate the species phenophase overlap in the Activity Curve. The Activity Curves are designed to display phenological information such as resource availability in an ecosystem. Included with this assignment is an editable student page where the instructor may edit the range and species to be explored.

USA-NPN Curriculum Resource Number: 2018-001-C

Investigations in Phenology by Sol Henson

Conduct this activity before students are introduced to data collection using the Nature’s Notebook observation protocols. This activity will familiarize students with some of the main phenophases present on select species during certain times throughout the school year. After students do this activity you may wish to have them make observations using the Nature’s Notebook observation protocols and then at the end of the year students can view their collected data in conjunction with the data they viewed during this activity.

This activity was submitted by Sol Henson from the Sierra Streams Institute for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Phenophase Photo Guide Activities

This activity introduces adult audiences to the concept of taking useable photos of phenophases for identification. Use this activity with a group of docents at a Local Phenology Program who may also be able to help collect photos to complete the photo guides.

USA-NPN Curriculum Resource Number: 2018-002-C

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